Vint Cerf, who led a team in the 1970s that created the TCP/IP protocols and is commonly thought of as one of the founding fathers of the Internet, has been on the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) for the past 7 years. Next month, when his term as chairman of ICANN is up, Cerf plans to leave the organization.
Since it was founded in 1998 to oversee the distribution of domain names and IP addresses, ICANN has weathered a number of storms, including calls by some world leaders in 2003 to remove the organization's control over how domain names are assigned. In part due to Cerf's leadership, the group remained intact and has even managed to grow its budget. Approximately 100 people now work at ICANN.
What does life after ICANN hold for the 64-year-old winner of both the National Medal of Technology and the Presidential Medal of Freedom? Cerf will maintain his role at Google as "chief Internet evangelist," which he has held since 2005. He also has "five books in various stages of completion," according to the AP, though perhaps somewhat surprisingly, only one of those books will be about the Internet. "I hesitate to say the definitive history, but I will try very hard to characterize the first 10 years of it," Cerf said about the subject of his book project.
Cerf also plans books of poetry, on relationships, and a biography of his wife.
"I don't regret at all the time spent, (but) I'm looking forward to having the time back," Cerf told the AP of his days at ICANN, which he estimates took up 25-40% of his time. "If you multiply eight years by a quarter to 40 percent, that's a lot of years."
Reuters reports that potential successors for Cerf at ICANN include telecommunications expert Roberto Gaetano and lawyer Peter Dengate Thrush -- neither of whom have the celebrity star-power of Cerf. "The bad news is we're not going to find another Vint," said Steve Crocker, a childhood friend of Cerf's and the inventor of the Request for Comments (RFC) series. "It's equally a form of good news. We're now going to go through a period where ordinary mortals are managing things."
Even though Cerf will still have an integral role in shaping the future of the Internet via his positions at Google, the IPv6 Forum, and NASA's Jet Propulsion Labratory, he does not plan to stay involved in ICANN. "I absolutely need this time back, and I don't want to hover over the process," he said. "I want them to feel the pressure to organize themselves and not imagine they can turn back and look for guidance from me."
Photo credit: jdlasica.